The Underbelly: A Booklist Review

The Underbelly

By Vanessa Bush
November 15, 2010

Mulgrew Magrady, a nearly homeless Vietnam vet, steps in to issue a warning when a drug dealer harasses his wheelchair-bound friend. Later, when the friend disappears and the dealer turns up dead, Magrady is deemed the prime suspect, hand-picked by Captain Stover of the LAPD. Magrady and Stover go way back to unresolved issues when they both served in Vietnam. With little else to do in a quickly gentrifying skidrow neighborhood, and to keep himself out of prison, Magrady investigates the murder. Plagued by flashbacks of Vietnam and memories of a failed marriage, distracted by the attentions of a frisky elderly lover and a community organizer determined to get him involved somehow, Magrady gets to the motive behind the murder. It involves wealthy developers, desperate characters, and a recently unearthed American Indian skull that is believed to have magical powers. Magrady’s adventures, with a distinctive noir feeling and appreciation for comic books, started as an online, serialized mystery. Drawings and an interview with Phillips enhance the package, offering a compelling perspective on race and class issues in South Central L.A.

Back to Gary Phillips’s Author Page